Reflecting on the findings of ‘The New Normal’ report – the latest research from tmgroup, mio and Conveyancing Data Services (CDS) – Rob Hailstone, Founder of Bold Legal Group, explains why it’s so critical residential conveyancers stay level-headed and look for opportunities in the face of current and emerging challenges.
Interest rates and consumer confidence expected to have more sway in latter half of 2022
In the tail end of 2021, residential conveyancers taking part in ‘The New Normal’ research predicted that interest rates, consumer confidence and longer-term pandemic uncertainty would wreak havoc on their roles into 2022.
However, in the first half of the year, these factors seemed to hold little sway, and the changes most expected to be seen in January-June will now likely be experienced July-December, as Rob comments:
“Many expected the end of the SDLT holiday to slow down the property market, yet conveyancers have stayed very busy across the first half of the year. That being said, we’re now at a turning point. Estate agents are currently experiencing a slowdown and there have been reports of stock levels dropping. With conveyancers typically working 3-4 months behind estate agents, conveyancers will likely see the knock-on effect in their case load in the near future.”
We’re also yet to experience the true fallout of the war in the Ukraine, as Rob continues:
“None of us could have predicted the scale of the war in the Ukraine, and we still don’t know how long it’s going to last for and if it will escalate. The financial repercussions have blindsided everyone and are rippling out across the world, and I expect the impact will be felt more prominently in the property market in the second half of 2022 and beyond.”
Making the most of available opportunities is vital
Looking ahead however, it’s important that residential conveyancers don’t get too down-trodden by the downturn in the market, as Rob comments:
“We need to move away from this optimistic vs. pessimistic outlook and instead focus on being realistic. Yes, the market won’t be as good as it has been and we’re heading for a downturn, but firms still need to be thinking about their technology, their marketing, their structure, and people, as well as being cyber and fraud aware. Market activity is always cyclical and it’s time for property professionals to hunker down, get their house in order, and make sure they come out fighting fit for the next peak.”
Residential conveyancers also need to be keeping an eye on trends and opportunities in the market, including the adoption of upfront information, as Rob continues:
“A clear positive in 2022 has been the changes coming through with material information and getting conveyancers involved much earlier on in the process. The industry is making good strides already – thanks to the focus on material information from National Trading Standards (with Part A now in place – and parts B and C to follow). We’ve also seen the unveiling of the Home Buying and Selling Group’s BASPI (Buyers and Sellers Property Information) form – approved by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC), the pending arrival of mio’s Seller’s Information Pack, and the launch of the Bold Legal Move register – offering estate agents a directory of law firms keen to support the drive towards upfront information. All to help speed things along.”
Residential conveyancers need to step up to tackle recruitment challenges
Alongside this, residential conveyancers are continuing to face critical staffing challenges, as Rob explains:
“Staffing is a growing problem in conveyancing, as a lot of the older generation are now thinking about retirement and there are not enough new recruits coming through to replace them. I think perception is partly to blame here. There’s so much pressure on a conveyancer to support a homebuyer in making sure that the most important purchase in their lives is a good investment. Yet, if the job is not perceived to be enjoyable, or for professionals to be well-paid and well-respected, then how can we expect to attract new and emerging talent into the role?”
The key to driving real change is in firms redefining what it means to be a conveyancer, as Rob continues:
“We need to rethink how we talk about ourselves and our profession. How about instead of simply saying ‘I’m a conveyancer’, we talk openly about how we ‘help people buy their dream homes so that they can live in them and enjoy them as they should, and how in these times of frauds and scams, we make sure that the biggest purchase of their lives is caried out diligently’? Of course, it’s not just about word of mouth… As clearly evidenced in the findings of The New Normal report, firms also have a role to play in keeping their fees up (which should extend to reviewing their outlay on referral fees), adopting the latest technology to create efficiencies and reduce the workload on staff, and taking mental health and wellbeing more seriously. All to help maintain a positive outward image. It’s a long list, but the time for change is undoubtedly now.”
About ‘The New Normal’ report
Bringing together the voices of nearly 800 property professionals, including Residential Conveyancers, Commercial Real Estate Professionals, Estate Agents, Lenders, Surveyors, Developers, and more, ‘The New Normal’ research set out to capture how those working on the frontline of the property transaction really feel the industry is adapting.